Spanish parliament moves to curtail Judges’ powers

• Want universal jurisdiction powers scrapped • Rwanda welcomes move The Spanish Parliament this week moved a motion to check the powers of their judges following years of controversies that have arisen from these judges’ decisions to indict foreign officials.
Justice minister Tharcisse Karugarama.
Justice minister Tharcisse Karugarama.

• Want universal jurisdiction powers scrapped • Rwanda welcomes move

The Spanish Parliament this week moved a motion to check the powers of their judges following years of controversies that have arisen from these judges’ decisions to indict foreign officials.

According to Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama, members of parliament who are in support of the changing the legislation constitute at least 90 percent of the 350-member Spanish Parliament.

“The two major parties have come to a consensus that there is need to review the organic law on universal jurisdiction and their representation in parliament comes to about 90 percent,” said Karugarama, naming the parties as the ruling Socialist Party and the Popular Party.

The move comes following last year’s indicting of 40 Rwandan officials by Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles over allegations that the officers, who were all members of the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA), committed crimes during the 1990-94 Liberation Struggle.

The Rwandan government, like many international bodies condemned the indictment saying they are politically motivated, especially since most of the witnesses in the report are said to be fugitives responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that the RPA stopped.

The reform bill stipulates that in the future, the court should only act on cases when Spanish nationals are affected.

“The decision by the lawmakers was reached to curb the excessive powers given to judges and they want to amend the law to clear cases of Spanish interest,” said Karugarama, who is also the Attorney General.

Other proposals in the bill, according to the minister, are that the judges should not make decisions on issues that happened outside the Spanish territory “and without having gone to those countries to carry out investigations.”

He said that Rwanda, as a country that has been victimized over the universal jurisdiction principle, welcomes the development by the Spanish lawmakers.

“But we have to wait until it is passed because it is still a bill despite it being supported by many.”

In the case of the Rwandan officers, Merelles made the indictments before even coming to Rwanda to investigate and neither did he give chance to the accused persons to give their side of the story.

Interpol, the international police body, has since refused to recognize the warrants of arrest issued by the judge, subsequently not putting them on Red Notice.

Merelles’ indictments came just months following similar ones from French judge Jean Louis Bruguière, also under the same principle, that saw 10 former RPA senior officers indicted.

It the cause of Bruguiere’s indictments that last year, the Director of State Protocol Rose Kabuye was arrested in Germany.

She has since been released on bail and her arrest warrant quashed following her appearance before French judges earlier this year.

Observers say that the move by the Spanish parliament was a result of another Spanish judge’s intentions to investigate senior US officials linked to allegations of torture in the Guantanamo detention facilities.

The lawmakers fear that the investigations could severely rock diplomatic relations with the new Obama administration which Spain is eager to cultivate.

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